The first week of NWSL action following the Women’s World Cup was greeted by a huge audience of Americans who were captivated by the successes of the US Women’s National Team. Record attendance numbers were seen in Houston and Seattle as teams began welcoming their WWC participants back to the NWSL.
Meanwhile, the league continued into July with the September playoffs inching closer with each match. Week 13, therefore, was all about momentum – gaining it, losing it, or keeping it. The results of this week’s matches can set the stage for the remainder of the playoff run.
Below is a recap of the week’s action, along with some takeaways for each team.
Thursday, July 9
Boston Breakers, 3-6-2 (11 points)
FC Kansas City, 5-5-2 (17 points)
Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium, Boston, MA
In a match dominated by offensive opportunities, FC Kansas City edged the Boston Breakers in a 3-2 victory at Boston’s Soldiers Field. Both teams found the back of the net within the first two minutes, resulting in a 1-1 tie which persisted until one minute before the half. At that point, Kansas City took the lead on forward Erika Tymak’s second goal of the night. Boston then tied the game in the second half but failed to take the lead despite having several advances downfield.
Rookie forward Shea Groom was a catalyst for Kansas City, assisting in all three of the Blues’ goals and scoring the game-winner in the 79th minute. Groom, 22, left the game on crutches a few minutes later, after a collision with Boston goalkeeper Jami-Ann Kranich. It was announced on Tuesday that Groom will be out 4-6 weeks with a right foot second metatarsal fracture.
FT – Boston Breakers 2-3 Kansas City FC
– FC Kansas City: The team continues to linger near the top of the league table, but the absence of Groom will be felt down the stretch. The rookie forward leads the team in goals and assists, and was yesterday named the NWSL Player of the Week. Nonetheless, the team hopes the return of their USWNT participants – particularly Lauren Holiday and Amy Rodriguez – will offset the void.
– Boston: The Breakers are on a three-game losing streak and have not won a decision since the end of May. They hope to find some sort of offensive rhythm that they have lacked this season – the team has scored only eleven points through eleven games.
Saturday, July 11
Sky Blue FC, 2-6-4 (10 points)
Portland Thorns FC, 3-4-4 (13 points)
Yurak Field, Piscataway, NJ
A goal by Samantha Kerr in the 52nd minute proved to be the difference in Sky Blue’s 1-0 win over Portland. Sky Blue ended a ten-game win-less streak by keeping the Thorns out of the net despite several opportunities to score. Sky Blue goalkeeper Brittany Cameron denied the Thorns on several attempts, including four by forward Ayo and two by midfielder Allie Long.
Kerr, who was making her Sky Blue debut, took a cross from Maya Hayes and finished the header into the back of the net. It was Sky Blue’s tenth goal of the season.
FT Sky Blue FC 1-0 Portland Thorns FC
– Sky Blue FC: Saturday’s win was only Sky Blue’s second win of the year, but it showed glimmers of hope for the team. The defense showed significantly more structure than over the past few weeks, and the home win should provide Jim Gabarra’s squad with some much-needed momentum as they head to Western New York next week.
– Portland: It was another classic, low-scoring affair for the Thorns, who have allowed multiple goals in only three of their eleven games so far this season. Nonetheless, the Thorns have yielded only three wins so far with a goal differential of +1. The lineup will gladly welcome back forward Alex Morgan and midfielder Tobin Heath from the WWC, both of whom are capable of quickly swinging a game in the Thorns’ favor.
Seattle Reign FC, 6-2-3 (21 points)
Western New York Flash, 4-5-2 (14 points)
Moda Pitch at Memorial Stadium, Seattle, WA
The Flash entered last Saturday’s match having lost only one of their past six matches, and the Reign were looking to extend their streak of seven consecutive matches without a loss.
The first half belonged to the Flash, who took a 1-0 lead on Amanda Frisbie’s first career goal. The Flash were dazzling on defense – they allowed zero shots on goal through the entire first half.
The second half was a different story. Led by Beverly Yanez, Rachel Corsie, and Amber Brooks, the defending champions came out striking and scored three goals in the first six minutes after halftime. The Flash got within a goal when Jaelene Hinkle’s driven pass set up Becky Edwards’ second goal of the season, but the defending champs responded quickly with Jessica Fishlock’s goal in the 72nd minute.
The win allowed the Reign to extend their streak of eight games without a loss. They momentarily overtook Chicago on the top of the league table, until the Red Stars reclaimed first place with their 2-1 win over Houston the following day.
FT Seattle Reign FC 4-2 Western New York Flash
– Seattle: the trio of Fishlock, Yanez, and reigning MVP Kim Little are a proven core for a very effective offensive attack. The return of Megan Rapinoe from WWC duties, coupled with the addition of forward Katrine Veje, should create an interesting dynamic for the rest of the season.
– Western New York: At 4-5-2, the Flash are right in the mix. If they are to make a run for the top four spots, they will need to keep future matches close and come up with big plays from downfield. Proven game-changer Sydney Leroux is back with the team after playing in the WWC.
Sunday, July 12
Houston Dash, 3-4-4 (13 points)
Chicago Red Stars, 6-1-3 (21 points)
BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX
The Red Stars, who the previous night had been leap-frogged by the Seattle Reign for first place in the league, reclaimed the top spot on Sunday with a 2-1 win in front of a record 13,025 fans at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium.
Chicago started the scoring with a 19th minute goal by Vanessa DiBernardo. The Dash, who earlier in the week had opened upper decks of the stadium to accommodate the record attendance, tied the game at 1 when Kealia Ohai set up Tiffany McCarty for a header into the back of the net. Chicago responded five minutes later on Jen Hoy’s third goal of the season, and the Red Stars never looked back.
FT: Houston Dash 1-2 Chicago Red Stars
– Houston: Defensively, Houston appeared to be finding its rhythm these past few weeks, having allowed zero goals over three games in the month of June. The return of Meghan Klingenberg from the WWC should further solidify the Dash’s defensive core. On the other end, Morgan Brian and nascent World Cup legend Carli Lloyd will certainly help an offense which was unable to pierce the Chicago backfield for a second score on Sunday. At 3-4-4 with 13 points on the season, the Dash will need a strong run in order to have a shot at the playoffs.
– Chicago: Sunday’s win was a microcosm for the Red Stars’ season thus far. A fast, aggressive offense seizes early momentum for the team and builds them a lead that their defense can protect. The team should be even stronger with their eight WWC participants returning to the squad this upcoming Saturday. It is certain that all eight will play a role down the stretch, but expect midfielder Julie Johnston and forward Christen Press to make an immediate impact.
All NWSL games can be streamed on the league’s official YouTube channel.